A physicist from the Physics Unit at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University in Okinawa, has developed a technique for manufacturing filters for N95-like respirator masks using a cotton candy machine.

OIST physicist Mahesh Bandi heated standard plastic — such as plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags — and then placed the material in a cotton candy machine (otherwise known as a candy floss machine). Once inside, the plastic is spun into a mesh-like material that resembles cotton candy but that is also electrocharged due to the spinning.

Source: Joseolgon/CC BY-SA 3.0Source: Joseolgon/CC BY-SA 3.0

The material is then cut into squares and positioned close to a standard air ionizer vent to enhance the material’s electrostatic charge.

In the lab, the filters were placed inside 3D printed masks designed in the likeness of N95 respirators. According to Bandi, the filters performed as well as standard N95 masks that feature electrocharged filters capable of capturing viruses — including SARS-CoV-2 viruses like COVID-19 — before reaching the wearer.

Bandi intends to make the plans for developing such filters available to the public in response to COVID-19 global personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages.

The technique is detailed in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com